DPS approves $575K in raises, ousts principal despite public outcry

Dayton’s school board approved two types of raises Tuesday — a new, higher salary schedule for administrators and a 3 percent raise retroactive to July for all administrators and other non-union staff.

Dayton Public Schools Treasurer Hiwot Abraha said the 3 percent retroactive raise will cost about $299,126 for the current school year, and the first-year impact of the new salary schedule will be about $276,858 for 2018-19.

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According to a salary benchmarking study prepared for Dayton schools by Hanover Research, DPS had the lowest average administrator salary of Ohio’s “big 8” urban districts, and ranked fifth highest of the eight in average principal salary.

Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said last week that the raises are “within reason” and will help the district’s continuing effort to recruit quality employees. Abraha said DPS is in good financial condition, so the raises will not put the quarter-billion-dollar per year district in any financial jeopardy.

Two principals out

The school board voted not to renew three administrators’ contracts for the 2018-19 school year — Ruskin PreK-6 Principal Jennifer Dearwester, Wogaman Middle School Principal Karl Perkins, and director of strategic communication and community relations Venita Kelley. Two votes were unanimous, while the vote on Dearwester was 5-1, with John McManus objecting.

The board tabled a vote to non-renew the contract of Dion Sampson, intervention support coordinator at the district’s Innovative Learning Center.

Dozens of supporters of Dearwester came to the school board meeting for the second consecutive month, wearing matching blue Ruskin shirts. Five of them addressed the school board, complimenting her dedication and skill and pleading with the district to keep her.

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“She is everywhere, and she knows these kids and she loves them,” said Mandy Williams, the choked-up mother of a third- grader who Dearwester has helped with behavior incentives. “It would be a terrible loss and terrible mistake to let her go.”

Three Wogaman staffers spoke in support of Perkins, touting improvements in the school’s academics, discipline and teacher support since he took over. Perkins stayed to hear the vote, then immediately left and declined comment.

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Dearwester has the right to return to a teaching role in the district if she wants, because she has a continuing contract. She and her attorney left Tuesday’s meeting before the board voted on her status. Perkins and Kelley do not have continuing contract rights.

Lolli repeated DPS’ position that it does not comment on personnel decisions.

Internal auditor leaving

Also Tuesday, DPS internal auditor Randall Harper confirmed he is leaving the district. School board member Mohamed Al-Hamdani said Harper submitted his resignation to take a job outside the district.

Harper was hired almost three years ago when DPS created the position of internal auditor — a move championed by former board member Adil Baguirov. In his three years, Harper uncovered misuse of DPS vehicles, contributed to the internal investigation of allegations against former Superintendent Rhonda Corr, and helped guide creation of the athletic department’s operations manual after money was found missing twice.

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Al-Hamdani said the school board has not yet discussed whether it will fill the role now that Harper, the only person to hold that job, is leaving.

More legal fees

The school board approved purchase requisitions for $223,000 in increased legal fees, one month after approving a separate $50,000 increase. Of the $273,000 total increase, $158,000 goes to the Bricker and Eckler firm, and $115,000 goes to Subashi and Wildermuth.

The school district has been involved in numerous court cases and legal negotiations recently involving the legality of its school closing task force, the eligibility of the Dunbar basketball team, and the investigation and separation agreement with Corr, among others.

School bus purchase

The school board approved a contract to purchase 10 new wheelchair accessible buses from Ohio Machinery Co. through the EPA Clean Diesel Rebate Program, at a cost not to exceed $941,280.

In March 2017, the district agreed to lease or finance 115 new buses all at once instead of buying 20 to 30 a year for the next several years. Lolli said very few of those 115 were special education buses, and the district needs to upgrade its fleet.

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She said the school district is making the move now because of money available via a grant program that is expiring this month. Associate Superintendent Shelia Burton said some of the $941,000 will be refunded to DPS.

Preschool changes

The school board approved a memorandum of understanding with the teachers union, establishing that the district will continue its four-day-per-week preschool model, with teachers using Fridays for professional training.

The district tried a five-day preschool pilot program this school year, but experienced staffing and scheduling problems.

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